Chef and cook. These two words have now become synonymous with each other. If you were to ask any laymen, they’d probably say that they both do the task of cooking. Which is true! And yet, in the culinary world or the restaurant industry, both of these terms & the profession are seen to be quite different.
Both of these masters of species & secret recipes look the same; they both wear the same uniform and they both are always behind the cooking counter preparing delicious meals. But they both have a very different set of roles & responsibilities in the kitchen.
What Is The Primary Difference Between a Chef and a Cook?
At its root, anyone can be a cook. A cook is an informal form of profession which does not need any particular training. If you enjoy experimenting with Indian species to curate your own recipe for butter chicken, then you are a cook too! However, you are known as a professional cook only if your cooking skill also helps you make profits! This is why the recent trends of ‘Home Cooks’ & ‘Home bakers’ have helped bring forward many talented cooks who are using their skills to provide delicious services while making profits right from their homes!
On the other hand, chefs are cooks who have taken professional training & experience in commercial kitchens. These people are formally trained cooks who then further led their own teams of cooks. All the people you see hosting & judging your favourite cooking shows are chefs!
Now, this entire difference is not concrete. However, when it comes to restaurant kitchen hierarchies, chefs are considered above the cooks. The head chef or the sous chef has his/her own team of cooks who together work in a professional kitchen setup for any retail food & beverage establishment.
To understand the thin difference between the chef and cook, it is important to understand what do they do & where do they work?
Who Is a Professional Cook?
- In the kitchen hierarchy, chefs are above the cooks. A group of cooks often trains under a head chef either at the culinary school or at a restaurant kitchen
- They handle the execution and operation of everyday kitchen tasks like prepping for meals, plating food & even cleaning. They are the main helping hands in the kitchen. It is their task to incorporate changes based on feedback given by the customers
- Cooks are people who provide their cooking service anywhere possible. Any person cooking in hospitals, hostels, college mess, even dhabbas, small-size restaurants or at your own home, is a cook!
- Cooks have no formal training in cuisines or theoretical knowledge of the diverse flavour pallets. But often when these cooks learn & train in formal kitchen setups they are taught about all of this
- Often in formal restaurant setups, cooks mostly handle the task of preparing or perfecting the already existing recipes which the head chefs have created
- Cook are multi-taskers. They work on all the different cooking stations & cuisines
Who Is a Professional Chef?
- Chefs have professional training from culinary school. And so, often they head their own teams to manage & train
- Unlike cooks, chefs more than often only work in the restaurant industry or formal kitchen establishments where they are well equipped with all necessary tools & ingredients
- The chef and cook both works together in the kitchen, but the chef focuses more on creating new items, updating the menu, experimenting with ingredients & inventory management
- Another important role of chefs is to train cooks. They often pass down their knowledge & cooking techniques to the cook. This gives them time to experiment & diversify
- Head chefs are often at the level of the owner & manager of the establishment. They work alongside them to improve the overall performance of the business
- Chefs have a better & thorough understanding of various cuisines, customer preferences & ways to improve it
- While cooks work in all & various areas of the kitchen, chefs are often experts in a particular segment. For example, pastry chefs, saute chefs, soup chefs, etc. More than often these chefs were cooks who trained & mastered their own niche in the kitchen
Hope this blog gives you a better understanding of what is the difference between a chef and cook. While one manages day-to-day kitchen operations, the other one focuses on training & scaling the kitchen. But like said before this difference is not concrete. Many times, cooks upgrade their skills & talent to rise above the chefs in the kitchen. Although many high-end restaurants prefer to hire a professional chef to work in their kitchens, more than often it is these cooks who rise in rank to become the executive chef.
Above everything else, no one needs a degree to cook delicious meals! So, if you are an aspiring chef, the only way to upscale yourself is by refining your cooking skills by experimenting with different flavours & ingredients. Because at the end of the day, everyone loves a great meal!
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